Every four years, it amazes me how the Olympic community and
media seem to gloss over the Palestinian terrorist murders of 11 Israeli team
members at the 1972 Games in Munich. It’s hard to believe it has now been
40 years and London 2012 will be the 10th Olympic
Games since the massacre in Munich.
In recent days, the International Olympic Committee
commemorated the tragedy in an Olympic village for the first time in London and others are
calling for more fitting and proper memorials.
Much like many children of today, I was 10 years old and
just beginning my fascination with the concept of sports and the Olympic Games
in 1972. I watched Mark Spitz win an incredible seven gold medals in swimming,
gymnast Olga Korbut show us that Russians actually had personality and Frank
Shorter inspire a generation of American runners by winning the marathon. While
it was hard for me to understand the theft of a U.S. basketball gold medal by
misguided and/or corrupt officials, it was nearly impossible to comprehend
watching ABC Olympic television host Jim McKay describe the kidnapping and
murder of innocent Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists on September 5-6,
“When I was a
kid, my father used to say "Our greatest hopes and our worst fears are
seldom realized," McKay reported. “Our worst fears have been realized
tonight. They've now said that there were 11 hostages. Two were killed in their
rooms yesterday morning, nine were killed at the airport tonight. They're all
While the Games were halted temporarily and a memorial
service held, they eventually finished under a huge dark cloud of mourning and
Only later on would I come to understand the irony of Jewish
Olympians being murdered by terrorists in the country that ordered the
Holocaust of World War II. Not to mention the further irony that security was
lacking in Munich due
to German efforts to show the world that fascism was a distant memory.
History closely repeated itself in 1996 when an American
terrorist, Eric Richard Rudolph, planted a pipe bomb in Atlanta
’s Centennial Park
the Games held there, where two people died and more than 100 were injured.
Much like many Americans want to forget the horror of
September 11, 2001 by avoiding the painful images and memories of that day, the
Olympic community rarely remembers that fateful September 1972. It would seem
that there should be a permanent and visible Olympic memorial to the slain
Israeli athletes and coaches, whether it be a statue of concrete or marking of
The mainstream media often avoids the issue, although HBO
aired an Oscar-winning British documentary of the events "One Day in
September" just before the Sydney Games in 2000. Much like filmmaker Bud
Greenspan's compelling Olympic documentaries, "One Day in September"
describes dramatic and important events too often forgotten by most of us.
While that program is one of the few reminders we have of those dark days in
September 1972 and we’ll see what marks the 40th anniversary
in 2012, I know I'll never forget the Munich Games.
As my sons watch the London Games and enjoy the
"thrill of victory and agony of defeat," I pray they won't have to
endure another Munich-like tragedy or something worse considering the world of
terror we confront today. Sadly, Munich in 1972 was probably just the beginning of what we now
know as the war on terror and should not be too easily forgotten.